Tuesday , January 26 2021

How two Australian brothers plan to kick-flip over Boosted with a new lineup of electric skateboards

Growing up in Australia in the late 1970s, brothers Matt and Pete Hill first had the idea of creating a skateboard that was more than just a skateboard. Lacking access to reliable transportation, the brothers — already fixtures in Melbourne’s underground skateboard scene — decided to take their vehicle of choice, a skateboard, and retrofit it with a chainsaw motor. The result was a “dangerous and noisy” motorized skateboard that was also “kind of incredible,” Matt Hill recalled in an interview.

“It gave us some freedom to move around that we hadn’t had before,” Matt said, “but eventually we outgrew that. It wasn’t very practical.”

They may have outgrown the “Frankenstein” board they created when they were kids, but they never truly abandoned the idea. Now, over 40 years later, the brothers, along with their third brother Stephen, run a popular streetwear company called Globe International that sells skate- and surf-inspired apparel and gear. They produce movies and documentaries. They have kids. But inspired by that original desire to build a motorized skateboard, Matt and Pete decided they needed another challenge in their lives.

Recently, they formed a new premium electric skateboard company called Dot Boards. Their pitch is simple: electric skateboards built by skaters, but designed for anyone in need of fun and fast transportation.

Dot Boards is the result of 30 years of expertise, as well as six years of research and development. Using a powerful hub motor and modular, upgradeable components, Dot Boards aims to challenge Boosted’s dominance of the nascent electric skateboard industry.

“We wanted an electric skateboard that rode like a skateboard,” Matt said.

Pete acknowledges that Boosted is “great” for transportation. But as a lifelong skater, he avoids the company’s belt-motor boards because they have more moving parts, are harder to fix or swap in new parts, and are generally heavier than the competition.

Dot Boards’ vehicles can be light or heavy, depending on how many batteries you decide to add. Each battery module has a range of six miles and people can add up to four batteries to the board for a total range of 24 miles. Different wheels can be swapped in for greater levels of comfort. And riders can change from one motor to two in under a minute with an Allen key that comes with purchase.

Dot Boards’ hub motors can reach a top speed of 24 mph and can climb hills with up to a 30 percent incline. (That’s on par with the Boosted Stealth.) They also let you “roll without resistance,” Matt said. “You can’t tell it’s an e-board, it doesn’t drag behind you.” The brothers also found that hub motors are much more intuitive for a beginner to ride, in that the board rolls in a more natural way that doesn’t pull you unexpectedly or lurch forward. “So that opens up a much more natural sort of cruising feel when you ride it,” Matt says.

Ultimately, the brothers want Dot Boards to be about freedom of choice. That meant building a lineup of skateboards that are highly modular and can be changed and adapted based on the owner’s whims.

But modularity is also an environmental decision, the brothers say. They argue that by allowing people to swap out parts, Dot Boards’ skateboards will never become obsolete. All parts can be repaired or replaced at the component level.

“People generally have to make a lowest common denominator choice when they buy their board right now because they have to think of all the things that they might need to do on it,” Matt said. “With ours, you can start with what you need and you can build it up, and then even once you’ve done that you can also tear it down again.”

The decks are constructed from a composite of maple V-Ply and fiberglass. Dot board is also partnered with the National Forest Foundation to donate to their tree-planting program, in an effort to plant more than three times the amount of trees the company harvests annually in the making of its skateboards.

The Dot electric skateboard comes in three models: the small Compact, which starts at $1,279; the medium-sized Cruiser starting at $1,299; and large Transporter starting at $1,599. That’s on par with most of Boosted’s models, though Dot is lacking a sub-$1,000 board like the Boosted Mini.

There are other features to consider. The hand-held remote features a grip control, soft silicon trigger, sensor magnet, and a cruise control function to alleviate rider fatigue during long rides. Each board has LED taillights with customizable brightness levels. There are three operating modes: Novice for beginners; Eco to limit power and conserve battery; and Expert for more power and acceleration.

Unlike other e-board startups, Dot Boards won’t have to crowdfund to get its first products shipped. The company is “fully funded” from the R&D budget of Globe International, a spokesperson said. First shipments will start right before the holidays, and then there will be a second round of deliveries in late January, the company said.

Many companies have aimed to knock Boosted off its pedestal, but so far none have succeeded. There are plenty of more affordable options from brands like Evolve, Juiced, Acton, Mellow, and Inboard (which recently ran out of money altogether), but the drop-off in quality is pretty steep. Boosted has its share of detractors, but the company remains popular among influencers and YouTubers.

Time will tell whether Dot Boards becomes a category-leader like Boosted or whether it ends up the latest in a series of also-rans. The company will need to start delivering products before we even get a hint of the answer. But for the Hill brothers, the most important thing isn’t beating Boosted, necessarily. It’s honoring the tradition of skateboarding that helped mold them.

“I think the biggest thing for us is that we don’t try to convince someone that this is a replacement to traditional skateboarding,” Matt said. “You know, that’s where we come from that, that probably will be the most fun … but when you take the person who might start with that resistance and you explain the other purposes that this offers, they come around pretty quickly.”

This Article was first published on theverge.com

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